Programs to Improve Reading Skills and Ideas to Help Children with Reading

August 20, 2021

Programs to Improve Reading Skills

Millions of children have difficulties with reading. Some children might feel embarrassed and hide these struggles from parents; children might even avoid reading. Parents also could notice that their child struggles when they read aloud at night. Other parents might be notified during parent-teacher conferences that their child is reading below grade-level expectations.

There are many tools and resources parents can utilize to help their child with reading. Parents can use programs to improve reading skills and help children gain reading confidence. In addition, nightly reading, tutoring and even starting a family book club also could be used to help children practice reading and begin to enjoy flipping those pages.

Programs to Improve Reading Skills

The Family that Reads Together…

Some children might simply be a little behind their peers in reading ability. Some younger children might not be ready to read. Others could be struggling with certain sounds or blends or might have trouble identifying key sight words.

When parents notice that their children might be struggling with reading, they can help at home. Parents might want to drop an email to their child’s teacher, though, as many teachers can provide tips on how to best guide reading at home.

Some teachers might even have children make bookmarks that provide prompts on what students should think about while reading. The bookmark could focus on characters, plot or comprehension. Parents can use these bookmark prompts at home to help children as they read.

Parents might still read aloud to their child. While reading to their child, parents can ask questions about the characters or the story plot. They might focus on the ‘wh’ prompts related to comprehension.

Writing for Reading Rockets, literacy expert Timothy Shanahan shared a number of ways that parents can help their child with reading. Among his tips, Shanahan advised that parents read to children, encourage them to write, encourage storytelling, and set aside reading time for the family.

Encouraging Family Reading Time

One of Shanahan’s tips was related to reading time for the family. Parents can create a focus on literacy (and model a good example) by establishing a family reading time. This can help the entire family get back into the habit of reading. There might even be a few rules associated with this family tradition. To ensure that no one gets distracted, families can:

  • Set devices like phones to vibrate only
  • Turn off the television
  • Create a reading home base; maybe everyone meets to read in the living room
  • Bring reading accessories; this could be extra pillows for comfort, a guided bookmark from school, etc.

Parents might not want to set a timer, as this could be a distraction. But they can keep an eye on the time as necessary. Times can be adjusted for younger kids. Parents also could encourage kids to read a chapter…instead of focusing on minutes. Maybe there is no time limit. Family reading time could be right before everyone goes to bed.

Create a Family Book Club

Families with older kids might set up family reading time as more of a book club atmosphere. Families can create a list of books that are at everyone’s level. Then the family can vote on what book they want to read. Each night, everyone could read a chapter. Or depending on the length of chapters, maybe families set a goal for finishing the book after a week or two. After everyone has finished the book, the family can talk about it together.

Discussions for the family book club also could happen after each chapter. Parents can have kids try to predict what might happen next. Everyone can discuss how they feel about the character. Parents also can enhance the book club with other experiences, too. Maybe the family visits somewhere mentioned in the book (a “reading field trip”). If the book has been adapted into a movie, then the family can have a movie night to watch the book’s movie play out. After the movie, everyone can talk about similarities and differences between the book and the movie.

Need a list of child-friendly books that have been adapted into a movie? Check out this comprehensive list from the site Imagination Soup.

Resources for Younger Readers

Kindergarteners and preschoolers could have difficulty with literacy skills, too. For young emerging readers, struggles might be with phonemes and phonics. They might have trouble hearing the differentiation between sounds or they could struggle with letter identification.

In kindergarten, students also often have to memorize and easily identify a list of sight words. Knowing these words might be considered a grade-level expectation. For young readers, parents might need to find tools that help their children master these words and grade-level skills.

Teachers might recommend that parents use flash cards at home to help children learn to recognize sight words. Parents also could integrate reading apps that help children practice sight words or gain a better understanding of letters and their sounds.

Apps may vary based on the device brand (e.g. Android, Apple or Windows). However, most offer apps that can be used for phonics practice and sight words, too. Apple (App Store) and Android (Google Play) both offer different apps for sight words, but these apps are fairly similar. PBS KIDS Games, which offers a variety of educational games (including reading) is available for both Android and Apple devices. Both also offer an app called Blending Board, an app geared for children with dyslexia that focuses on phonics. The Blending Board could be used to help children practice sound blends.

Programs to Improve Reading Skills

Some children might need more help than parents can provide. Parents might look for private tutors or research different online programs to help children. For some families, private tutoring might be too costly. Although free help might be available in some cases, free tutoring isn’t something that all families might be able to access.

Reading apps and online programs could provide additional help for children who struggle to read. There are many programs available, and parents might wish to zero in on the programs that offer multimodal support or that focuses on a specific literacy struggle. Every child’s needs are different, and parents should find a program that best helps their child succeed.

Parents also might need to look at the cost of the program, too. Price could be an issue for families. Some programs—like Readability—charge per month for program access. Other programs could price their services differently.

Program Features

Reading apps or programs could offer a free trial period that enables parents and their children to test out the program to see if it is a good fit. Readability offers a free seven-day trial. During this time, children can use all the features of the program. Parents can watch as their child engages with the program to assess how Readability works and their child’s attitude while using the program.

Readability features a built-in AI tutor that works with the child during reading lessons. With Readability, the child reads aloud and the tutor is designed to recognize each child’s unique vocal inflections (i.e. voice recognition). This technology allows the AI tutor to help correct mispronunciations while reading. The tutor also will ask questions at the end of each book. These questions are intended to gauge a child’s ability to comprehend what they read.

Children only advance to the next level of Readability after they have shown a mastery of both reading comprehension and reading fluency. This keeps lessons appropriately leveled for each child.

Measuring Progress with Reading Programs

Reading programs might be designed differently, but no matter what program families choose, results are important. Parents likely don’t want to spend money each month (or up front) on a program that never helps a child progress.

How can parents be sure that the program works? Programs might be designed to provide a snapshot look at a child’s progress. With Readability, for example, parents can access a portal with information about their child. This is called the Parent Dashboard and it shows parents their child’s current reading level, length of time spent on the program, the number of words they can read per minute and other data. Parents can even create a report for teachers to provide reading data to the school.

Even if progress is indicated on the reading app or program, work in the classroom matters, too. Parents can keep in touch with teachers to monitor reading progress at school. Some districts test reading throughout the year and provide parents with updates on their child’s reading level. These reports from the school can help parents better understand their child’s reading progress, too.

Programs to Improve Reading Skills

Don’t Forget the Fun!

Whether parents use a reading program, work with children at home, hire a tutor or use other resources to help children gain proficiency, families shouldn’t forget that reading should be fun. Parents can encourage enjoyment by embracing reading activities; visit the library and let children pick out their own books, listen to books on tape, read silly books, holiday books, and use books to help children understand history.

While reading is often a homework assignment, helping kids enjoy the words on the page might help them to become dedicated readers throughout their lifetime.